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Special operations soldier in secretive unit dies after parachute fails

Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms dies at 46

Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms, 46, died in July in South Carolina. U.S. Army
Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms, 46, died in July in South Carolina. U.S. Army

MIAMI – Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms, an elite special operations soldier who belonged to a secret unit, died when his parachute failed to fully open during a jump, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command confirmed on Friday, according to the Army Times. He was 46.

Nelms, a member of the U.S. Army's Delta Force, was from Oklahoma City. He had worked in the shadows around the world, and was in missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Niger. The June 27 jump was out of Laurinburg-Maxton Airport, in North Carolina. 

Master Sgt. Christopher Nelms participates in a competition at Fort Benning. U.S. Army Photos
Master Sgt. Christopher Nelms participates in a competition at Fort Benning. U.S. Army Photos

Nelms, who joined the U.S. Army  on July 24, 1990, died at Duke University Medical Center on July 1. Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt told Yahoo News that Nelms was buried in Arlington Cemetery on July 31 and was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit.

"Everyone who serves at the unit is handpicked ... the reality is losing someone at that level is devastating," a former Delta operator told Yahoo News adding that he was "irreplaceable" and "It will be a decade before someone can fill those kinds of slots, with that experience, with that training."

The highly decorated soldier also served as a firefighter in Issaquah, Washington. Members of the department described him as caring, "easygoing and humble," and someone "who always had your back."

Christopher Nelms spent a decade as a firefighter in Washington state.
Christopher Nelms spent a decade as a firefighter in Washington state.

An anonymous user on the  SOC forum wrote Nelms "epitomized what it means to be a special forces soldier." Scott Miles wrote a message to Nelms on a U.S. Army Facebook page. 

"The sacrifices you made for your country were great," Miles wrote. "Now that you gave the ultimate sacrifice, your family and friends will dearly miss you. You will always be in our hearts. God bless you. We salute you."

Stephanie Nelms and their two children 16-year-old Naley and 15-year-old Nolan Nelms survive him. 


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